Swimming champion plunges into pool issue

Solomon Harcombe and medal winning swimmer Lauren Boyle at the Macandrew Bay School swimming pool...
Solomon Harcombe and medal winning swimmer Lauren Boyle at the Macandrew Bay School swimming pool, which is in danger of closing. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
When Macandrew Bay School pupil Solomon Harcombe (11) wrote a letter to the editor of the Otago Daily Times, he had no idea it would catch the eye of world championship silver medallist and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lauren Boyle.

In the letter, Solomon urged people to show support for his school's swimming pool, which he said had ''more moss and mould on it than your average student flat''. The pool was in danger of closing because of high maintenance costs.

After the letter was shared on Water Safety New Zealand's (WSNZ) Facebook page, it attracted almost 700 likes.

Now, Boyle has thrown a life saver in a bid to keep the many struggling school pools in New Zealand afloat by becoming an ambassador for WSNZ. The swimmer appeared at a special assembly at Macandrew Bay School yesterday, launching a campaign to travel to schools to talk about the importance of school pools.

She was disappointed some children were losing an opportunity to learn to swim.

''Pools are pretty expensive to run but when you think of the cost of a child's life or the skills they could learn in a pool, you can't really put a price on that,'' she said. Boyle said she would work with other WSNZ ambassadors to raise awareness about the issue.

Solomon was glad his letter received such a positive response and was excited to meet Boyle.

He said he and his classmates were lucky to have a school like Macandrew Bay where they could learn to swim.

''Anybody could learn to swim here and end up like Lauren and go to the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games.''

The Macandrew Bay school pool is one of nine in Dunedin facing closure.

Other schools struggling to keep up with costs include Portobello School, Dunedin North Intermediate and Wakari School. The others did not want to be identified.

Wakari School principal Christopher Smith said his school would like to open its pool to the community if it could afford it.

He said it was fabulous that someone of Boyle's profile was willing to promote the need for community support and funding.

''It's a really key motivator for us,'' he said.

''The levels of funding from the ministry do not even scratch the surface of what is required to run our pool.''

By Samuel White. 


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